Six years passed since Mafia 2 was released, and I can still remember some of the areas I explored in Empire Bay on my Xbox 360. Good times, I tell you…
But time passes and some of the greatest video-game franchises get new installments, new developers, new characters, and new settings.
Mafia got one too, and it is known as Mafia 3. A video game I was so excited about. Until I played it.
When I say that I finished Mafia 3, it doesn’t mean that I completed the story just to be able to review it. No.
It means that I actually did everything you can do in this game, which explains why our review was published a week after the game was released.
As part of my job, I had to cover the whole game for our YouTube Channel. I have played all story missions, all side missions, I collected every single magazine, and I was stupid enough to collect every fuse. But more on this later.
So, unlike other Mafia 3 reviews, this one comes from someone who got 100% on this title. That’s why it will be longer than the rest, and deeper.
But let’s start with the story and the setting.
As you probably know by now, the game’s character is Lincoln Clay and the action takes place in the ’60s.
Being an orphan, Lincoln was adopted by Sammy Robinson, a mobster who controls one of the city’s districts. After he returns from Vietnam where he joined the war, Lincoln participated in various illegal activities for Sammy.
During one of these activities, Sammy’s gang engaged a Haitian gang, and things went bad. So bad that they left Sammy with an impressive debt to Sal Marcano. Sal is the antagonist in Mafia 3, your final target and the Don of the Marcano crime family.
After these events, Sal meets Lincoln and suggests that Sammy should be replaced because of his age, but Lincoln refuses this position, and in exchange he agrees to work with Giorgi Marcano (Sal’s son) and rob the Louisiana Federal Reserve.
The heist works as planned, but in the end, all participants including Sammy and Lincoln, are betrayed by Sal, most of them being killed. Lincoln also gets shot but he is eventually saved by Father James.
Months later, after he fully recovers, Lincoln returns on the streets looking for revenge. Lincoln’s first ally is John Donovan, a CIA agent who worked with him in Vietnam. The next three are Thomas Burke, Vito Scaletta and Cassandra.
Helped by these four characters, Lincoln must revenge Sammy’s death, and eventually kill Sal Marcano. The whole plan is quite simple: you have to conquer New Bordeaux, kill all mobsters working for Sal, and finally face the Don.
The events above are revealed during the first story missions, and sometimes you might get overwhelmed by the amount of information you must retain.
After you complete the first missions which also serve as a tutorial, you will start asking yourself: Who is this guy and who is he working for?
You don’t have to worry about them too much though, because most of them will end up dead sooner or later, when you start conquering the city.
In Mafia 3 you will control Lincoln from a third-person perspective, as in most open-world video games.
The control scheme is very well optimized, allowing you to observe the environment and the enemies you need to take out.
This is very useful especially if you wish to remain unseen, as you will need to move the camera a lot to see where your enemies are and where they are going.
Using stealth in Mafia III is probably the best way to play the game, mainly because you will notice that your opponents are very stupid. Yes, one of the biggest problems with Mafia 3 is the AI.
While playing the game, I have noticed a pattern in how all enemies react to your presence inside a turf for example.
If you remain unseen and you constantly whistle to distract your opponents, rarely you will be attacked by two enemies at once. This means that you can remain in cover and whistle to call the opponents, making them search the area where you hide. Since they usually don’t come in groups, you will end up with a pile of corpses under your feet.
It is fun at first, but after few hours it becomes boring, thus you will start using weapons, and a new problem occurs.
In Mafia 3, you can carry only two weapons, which is quite odd for an open-world video game. The number of weapons is also low and most of them are similar.
I rarely used other weapons than the Silenced M1N8 and the Silenced Masterson, simply because there was no need to change them.
There is only one mission that requires a sniper rifle, and that rifle is given to you. What’s the point in buying new weapons if you don’t need them?
This problem is associated with the underdeveloped AI, which can’t react accordingly when they spot you. A sniper on a roof will not focus on finding you without leaving his position, instead he will rush towards the crates you use as cover, like a lamb to the slaughter.
So why should you buy a sniper rifle to take him out, when you can use a knife.
What’s even more annoying in Mafia 3, is that your opponents will not react even if they see you killing an enemy from cover when you are several steps away from them.
Again, this is fun at first but it becomes a huge problem later.
Furthermore, the fact that the game is poorly structured, made me think that someone rushed it.
It is very hard to tell if you are playing a mission, an objective, a side mission or a chapter. You just know that you must do what you are asked, and sometimes you will have to do it more than once.
As an example, we will talk about I.R.A. Don’t Ask side-mission that must be completed for Thomas Burke. For this mission, you are asked to steal some cars and boats, then deliver them to Burke’s garage.
You will start with 3 Orange Samson Richmond-Luxes, followed by 3 Red De’Leo Capulets, followed by 3 Green Bullworth Aspens, followed by 3 Cutler 50s, followed by 3 Blue Samson Dukes. Yeah, that’s a lot!
This means that you have to find 15 cars, and drive them back to Burke for a side-mission.
There are no other requirements, and the only thing you will get is an upgrade and a cutscene. If you are lucky like me, during this cutscene you will also see Burke’s twin brother, pictured on the right.
I.R.A. Don’t Ask is just an example to outline how repetitive Mafia 3 can be. At a larger scale, imagine that every side-mission or story mission follows the same pattern.
The good thing though (joking), is that after you manage to complete the game you can start looking for collectibles. You won’t get anything for finding them, but you will do it anyway because you have paid $60 for the game.
Mafia 3 includes 161 collectibles that will award you nothing. Yes, nothing. You won’t get an achievement or a trophy. You won’t unlock upgrades or anything. But you get a large collection of images to enjoy before deleting the game.
The collectibles appear on your map marked by blue diamonds, all of them being the same. Along with the blue diamonds you will also see green dots which mark the locations of TL-49 fuses required to wiretap the Junction Boxes.
There are 89 Junction Boxes you need to wiretap in Mafia 3 and each box requires 3 fuses. This means that you need to collect 267 fuses. OK, so these fuses make sense because you need them.
But what happens to the rest?
If you start collecting all fuses in Mafia 3 you will end up with 502, from which you only need 267.
After I finally managed to find all fuses, I admit that I paused the game and I felt stupid for spending so much hours for nothing. But I’m also the proud owner and probably the only gamer who has 235 Mafia 3 fuses that I can’t use or need.
The rest of collectibles in Mafia III also serve no purpose at all, but at least they show some naked ladies from the ’60s or some cars.
Moving forward with the beautiful city of New Bordeaux which you have to explore.
Since you can’t fast travel in Mafia 3, you have two options: you can drive or you can walk. The car handling system is something worth talking about because it is also poorly developed.
From the start, you should know that the laws of physics don’t work in New Bordeaux. Cars can fly, boats can do that too. Even alligators can fly in this game.
When you drive a car in Mafia 3 you will feel that you are driving a carriage, but without horses. I totally understand that these cars are from the ’60s but I’m quite sure that even then, people were able to steer left and right.
Furthermore, most cars in Mafia 3 have no engines and you can see that by damaging a car until the hood starts to bounce. Simply turn the camera and look under the hood.
Since I had so much trouble driving, I decided to walk towards most locations, to admire the environment. And here I was in Bayou Fantom, looking for a fuse (because I am a fool), which was inside a desolated shack on an island.
Only the river and several bushes stood between me and the annoying green dot that I had to remove from my map. Time for a swim Lincoln!
I avoided most alligators in that swamp (10 of them) and rushed towards the house. But suddenly I stopped in a bush.
Why? Because you can’t go through a bush in Mafia III since it is made of stone. Or because Lincoln missed some of the training classes in Vietnam. Or because there are no bushes in Vietnam, so Lincoln can’t tell the difference between a bush and a stone.
The same thing happens when you hit one with a car. It is like hitting a concrete wall.
So here I was again in the same swamp with all alligators in New Bordeaux chasing me, trying to find a way to go around the green wall that stopped me from claiming my beautiful fuse. Which I didn’t need anyway.
Once I got the fuse, I walked back to the city, to see how people enjoyed the nightlife back in the days.
Unfortunately, there was nothing to see because I was alone on a street until a cop showed up staring at me, so I left the area thinking that I should fast forward the time to wake up the whole city. Then, I remembered that I can’t do that in Mafia III.
The city of New Bordeaux, as it was developed by Hangar 13 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is probably the most boring city I have ever seen in an open world video game. The only thing you can do is to rob stores, restaurants or service stations. There is no nightlife, there are no activities, there is nothing.
You can also collect something you don’t actually need, because, again, you won’t get anything.
Since I am an older gamer who had the chance to play a lot of video games, I won’t insist on the game’s graphics, because they are not that important to me, but after seeing how the game looks on Xbox One, I felt that Hangar 13 failed to harvest the full potential of current gen consoles. I loved the retro style, but I also hated the waterish, and unpolished graphics.
The two things that I really loved in Mafia 3, are the soundtrack and the voice acting. The soundtrack has some great songs that I used to listen as a kid, and Vito Scaletta’s voice is great.
On the other hand, the number of bugs I have found in this game made me think that it was tested by a pack of baboons. In a single gaming session (about 8 hours), the game crashed 6 times. I still don’t know what Alma Diaz told Lincoln the first time they’ve met, because the game crashed and sent me to dashboard.
When I returned the cutscene was gone. I guess it was a private discussion.
Besides Burke’s twin brother you can see above, which is a bug I encountered during a cutscene (something you don’t see too often these days), Cassandra also had a twin sister. Or is her ghost maybe?
Again, these bugs were captured in cutscenes, so you can only imagine what happened when I played the game.
Overall, Mafia 3 could have been a great game, for which I have waited a long time.
Unfortunately, the project was developed by the wrong team, with the wrong tools. The number of bugs, the game’s repetitive missions, an underdeveloped AI, and a boring New Bordeaux, made me feel like I was cheated and that the whole franchise died in 2010 after Mafia 2 was released.
Disclaimer: We have reviewed the Xbox One version of the game. Our review is not endorsed by Hangar 13 and 2K Games, and we didn’t receive a free copy of the game in exchange for our review. We have purchased it like everyone else at launch, and hopefully we will be able to sell it just as fast.